“Pose” ends its run this June after three seasons. It’s a groundbreaking drama with more trans actors of color as series regulars than any other program in television history. And it’s an Emmy-winning show that earned a Best Drama Series nomination in 2019 for its first season. So it’s kind of surprising that so far it has zero trans representation in acting categories. Will that change this year?
The series tells the story of queer people who find refuge in New York City’s ball culture in the 1980s and 1990s, and in 2019 Billy Porter won Best Drama Actor, making him the first openly gay Black man to win that category. But even though the show was also nominated for Best Casting that year, Porter is the only performer who has ever been nominated for it, a conspicuous oversight for the television academy since he’s a cisgender actor on a series largely focused around trans women.
It’s been a few years since Laverne Cox became the first transgender acting nominee in Primetime Emmy history for her recurring role in ‘Orange is the New Black.” She was nominated for guest acting in 2014, 2017, 2019, and 2020. But no trans actors have won yet, even though cisgender actor Jeffrey Tambor recently won twice for playing a trans woman in “Transparent.” In his 2016 acceptance speech, Tambor himself acknowledged the need for transgender actors in transgender roles.
The Oscars have been in a similar position, with cisgender actors Felicity Huffman (“Transamerica”) and Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”) earning nominations and Hilary Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry”) and Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”) winning for transgender roles, but no openly trans actors have contended (Elliot Page was nominated for “Juno” more than a decade before he came out).
You’d think “Pose” would have changed that for the Emmys by now, especially with lead actress Mj Rodriguez already having earned nominations from the Critics Choice Awards and even the MTV Movie and TV Awards. But the door might be more open this year than it has been in the past. This year “Pose” aired during the spring with its series finale airing on June 6 — 11 days before the start of Emmy voting, so it will be fresh in mind when voters start filling out their ballots (and in Pride Month, no less).
“Pose” is also competing in a year marked by many COVID-19 production delays, which means an unusually high number of 2020 nominees are ineligible to return in 2021. For instance, in Best Drama Actress where Rodriguez will be up for consideration, only one of last year’s six nominees is eligible to return (Olivia Colman for “The Crown”). In Best Drama Supporting Actress, which could include “Pose” standouts Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, and Hailie Sahar, only two of last year’s eight nominees could come back (Helena Bonham Carter for “The Crown” and Samira Wiley for “The Handmaid’s Tale”).
But despite all those slots suddenly becoming available, Porter remains the only performer in nomination position according to our odds as of this writing. Rodriguez is on the bubble for Drama Actress with 18/1 odds, while Moore is the closest of the show’s Drama Supporting Actress hopefuls with 33/1 odds. Could one or more of them make it, or will “Pose” curiously go into the sunset with no trans actresses represented at the Emmys?
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